Arthur Sandrock 62 is in jail charged with sexual assault. He victimized two girls beginning at the ages of 8 and 10, reports the Great Falls Tribune.

The victims say they were “brainwashed.”

Sandrock claimed to be the “High Lord of Yawe” and “Fourth Son of God.” He told the girls sex was the way they could “satisfy God through him” and avoid hell.

The cult leader was supposedly waiting for “an invisible ship from the vortex,” which “would carry him to …God.”

But now the “High Lord” is waiting for his day in court and says he was just crazy. One examining psychiatrist initially agreed, but others say Sandrock is faking, or intentionally exaggerating his symptoms.

The controversy surrounding Sandrock does seem a bit silly though. It shouldn’t be difficult to discern that destructive cult leaders are often crazy. Of course mental health professionals would prefer we use more concise terms like “paranoid schizophrenic” and/or “psychotic.”

Charles Manson and Jim Jones are just two obvious examples.

David Koresh like Sandrock claimed he was a “High Lord” and also used that status to extract sexual favors from his victims. Marshall Applewhite, a former mental patient who led his followers to suicide in San Diego, was waiting for a spaceship too. In this context, there is nothing new or even particularly unique about the jailed Montana cult leader.

The sad thing about cults is that group members often become so deeply dependent upon their leaders that they will follow them without question. And this can easily become a formula for disaster when the leader is insane.

Lucille Poulin was once a Roman Catholic nun, but she left the church, declared herself a “prophet” and started a commune called the “Family,” reports the National Post.

Life in the Canadian cult included constant beatings and “brainwashing,” according to former members. Finally, some escaped from Poulin’s control and notified authorities.

Poulin now is in court facing charges.

Nine children were brought into this group by their parents. A twelve-year-old boy died due to a viral infection three years ago.

Kids have no choice when their parents decide to join a cult. Many are then schooled within the group and largely isolated from outsiders. Most abused children in cults don’t escape and many have endured years of abuse. A lawsuit filed by the former Krishna children is a frightening example. The class action lawsuit cites horrific physical and sexual abuse that went on for years.

“Das Experiment” opened this week in Germany. The film follows a group of volunteers as they evolve through an experiment about the effects of group persuasion, reports the New York Times.

An experiment like this was actually conducted during 1971 by Professor Philip Zimbardo in California, but it frightened the good doctor so much he shut it down after only one week.

The German thriller is an obvious analogy about the rise of a totalitarian regime like the Nazis. Germany is very vigilant regarding such groups and has dealt decisively with the Church of Scientology on that basis.

Robert Cialdini explores these same themes in his book “Influence.” Robert Jay Lifton wrote the definitive book titled “Thought Reform and Psychology of Totalism.”

Another book just released “The Power of Cult Branding” details how the public is manipulated through marketing.

When people say only “nuts” join cults, this can be seen as a form of denial. Most people are susceptible to persuasion techniques. But it seems to be disconcerting to admit just how vulnerable the human mind really is.

Roman Catholic Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo says that he may have been “brainwashed,” reported Reuters.

Milingo was the center of an intense controversy regarding his marriage to a “Moonie.” His now former wife is a member of Rev. Moon’s Unification Church.

The Archbishop has released a tell-all book titled “Fished out of the Mud.” He says that the Unification Church actually wanted to use him to set up a “parallel Catholic Church” in Africa. Apparently the “brainwashed” bishop would have then become its figurehead, essentially a front man for Moon.

It seems like mass weddings and being a billionaire is just not enough for Mr. Moon. The octogenarian “cult leader” now apparently wants to be a Pontiff too. Maybe his devoted followers already kiss his ring, or whatever.

A cult in France called “New Lighthouse” believes that the world will end next month. So far, one member has committed suicide and two others apparently made a serious attempt, reports Reuters. French authorities fear the implications of such a doomsday date and how it may affect the cult members.

Much like “Heaven’s Gate” whose 39 members died through a mass suicide in 1997, New Lighthouse members believe they too will be saved by a spaceship. Their leader Arnaud Mussy. says he will reign as the new Christ, when he and his followers are brought to Venus. Mussy has declared his brother the Pope.

Never mind that this all sounds ridiculous. The point is that those involved believe it and may end their lives as a direct result of that belief. Cult members are often subjected to a type of coercive persuasion within a group environment that produces undue influence and dependence upon a leader for crucial decision-making and value judgements. Historically, cult leaders have often become deeply delusional and then led their followers to tragedy.

After the Swiss cult mass suicide of the Solar Temple in 1994, which claimed 48 lives initially and many more later, French authorities are taking no chances. The police now have the New Lighthouse under close surveillance.

In recent years the European response to destructive cults has been more forthcoming, consistent and ongoing than within the United States.

Karen Robidoux, a member of the cult called “The Body,” is charged with the starvation murder of her year-old son. Jacques her husband has already been tried and convicted of first-degree murder for his role in the baby’s death. He testified that the group’s teachings and “visions” caused him to withhold solid food from his son.

Now Mrs. Robidoux’s attorney Joseph F. Krowski says he will use a cult version of the “battered woman’s syndrome defense” to explain his clients behavior, reports the Boston Globe. Krowski said that the 26-year-old mother was essentially bullied and brainwashed by cult members to cooperate.

Historically the “cult brainwashing” defense has not always fared well in court. Patty Hearst attempted to explain her behavior this way and was convicted anyway. Leslie Van Houten, of the infamous Charles Manson “Family” has been denied parole repeatedly, despite such an explanation regarding her crimes. But with Jacques Robidoux already serving an automatic life sentence in prison, perhaps the court will be more willing to consider such a defense for the young mother.

The jury in Karen Robidoux’s coming trial will be faced with a tough decision. When they deliberate they will likely discuss the apparent cult vicitimization of the defendant, but jurors will certainly be confronted by the facts concerning that cult’s ultimate victim, a defenseless year-old child.

In the 90s the IRS was after 70s celebrity guru Werner Erhard for unpaid taxes, but now it’s apparently giving him money. That is, by paying for the so-called seminar “technology,” which he licenses. Erhard, whose devoted following once included singer John Denver and sit-com star Valerie Harper, now seems to have a new fan, Uncle Sam.

According to sources in Seattle, Washington IRS employees are gulping down more than coffee these days. The latest brew consumed at IRS is Erhard’s seminar training, once called “EST” and now known as Landmark Education. But unlike some concoction from Starbucks, taxpayers have apparently picked up the tab for the Landmark Forum.

High-ranking staffers at the Taxpayer Advocate’s office in Seattle took Landmark’s multi-day large group awareness marathon called the “Forum,” and billed Uncle Sam. Then they began pushing the program to subordinates, claiming that the government would pay for the course. The Landmark Forum costs $375.00 per person. But individual courses go up to $3,000 a pop, according to Landmark’s website.

Werner Erhard, EST and Landmark Education have a history of lawsuits and bad press. Some past participants have compared Forum seminars to “brainwashing” and characterized Landmark as somewhat “cult-like.”

Complaints caused the Treasury Inspector General to look into this matter. But that investigation didn’t seem to dampen the enthusiasm at the Taxpayer Advocate’s office. Senior staffers kept touting the program and still claimed that the government would pay, according to sources in Seattle. Could Werner Erhard who was once on IRS’s wanted list, now benefit from its payment plan?

Government officials in Seattle and Washington D.C. directly involved and reached personally by phone refused to comment.

Art Schreiber, Landmark’s general counsel stated, “IRS contacted our Seattle Center to find out about our programs.” And David Peterson, Manager of that center said he is well acquainted with Seattle IRS Taxpayer Advocate Ms. Jean Beck. Mark Kamin, Landmark’s Director for Media Relations confirmed that Ms. Beck completed the Landmark Forum, but insists they did not receive a check or voucher from the IRS and that to his knowledge, a reimbursement did not happen.

Why did IRS contact Landmark about its programs? Perhaps the government agency is hoping to stimulate its subculture through an old guru’s philosophy. But should they do this at the taxpayer’s expense?

The NY Post ran a series of investigative pieces by Jeanne MacIntosh exposing the activities of a purported “cult” leader named Fred Newman and his acolyte Leonora Fulani, through various organizations they appear to largely control. This list of non-profit tax-exempt charities includes the Castillo Theater, the East Side Institute for Short Term Psychotherapy, and the heavily funded “All Stars,” a program supposedly designed to help kids. All Stars is supported by a virtual “Who’s Who” of corporate NY.

Newman, a self-described “neo-Marxist” and “revolutionary,” was once associated with perennial presidential aspirant Lyndon LaRouche. In 1992 LaRouche campaigned from a federal prison, where he was serving time for fraud and tax evasion. But now Fred runs his own shop, apparently largely fueled by the “All Stars,” which seemingly has become his cash cow. The money milked from “All Stars” appears to travel to other Newman entities.

Now after the NY Post’s revelations, Elliot Spitzer, NY Attorney General, is probing the interrelationships amongst Newman’s various charitable concerns.

Fred Newman, a failed philosophy professor who was fired from seven colleges, later created what he calls “Social Therapy.” According to Newman, who is not a psychologist, this therapy helps people to “overthrow” and “wither” what he labels their “proletarian ego.” However, former participants seem to think it is “brainwashing.”

Newman teaches that his therapy should include social activism. The net result of that activism appears to be working for Fred for free. This might include fund raising for one of his charities like All Stars, or perhaps petition drives for the Indendence Party.

Millions of dollars flow through the coffers of Newman related entities.

Some critics say that Newman has effectively co-opted or taken over the Independence Party of New York. It is within this area that perhaps the most controversial aspects of Fred Newman’s interrelationships become even more interesting. He has questionable ties to both Governor Pataki and Mayor Bloomberg. Both have benefited through Independence Party endorsements and/or petition drives. Some say there is a kind of quid-pro-quo between Newman and these politicians. That is, they are now paying him back through arranging support for his endeavors, specifically through All Stars.

The Newman dominated Independence Party also endorsed Elliott Spitzer, but the Attorney General seems devoid of any meaningful connections to either Fred Newman or his interests. Hopefully, Spitzer’s probe will soon produce meaningful results, rahter than lead to a dead end.

Jacques Robidoux, the 29-year-old son of cult leader Roland Robidoux, was convicted of first degree murder June 14th. Later, the man who starved his own infant son to death attempted to reduce that conviction to manslaughter through an appeal. His appeal was denied reports the Boston Globe. Robidoiux has begun serving his automatic life sentence.

Robidoux acted upon supposed “visions” received by the infant’s aunt, which instructed that the baby be denied food. Many say that undue influence led to this tragedy.

The child’s mother and aunt are now apparently hoping to make deals through plea bargains with prosecutors to avoid trial.

Roland Robidoux, the founder and undisputed leader of the cult remains uncharged.

Little consideration has been given to the undue influence of destructive cults historically when members commit violent crimes and especially homicides. Jacques Robidoux will likely live the remainder of his life in prison.

And when it comes to murder, cult members have often been given long sentences or condemned to death.

Larry Layton, convicted for his role in the murder of California Congressman Leo J. Ryan at Jonestown (1978), is still in prison.

Likewise, the followers of Charles Manson (1969 Manson murders) were sentenced to death, but those sentences were later commuted to life in prison when the death penalty was dropped in California.

However, former Manson family members have routinely been denied parole due to the horrific nature of their crimes. Manson follower Leslie Van Houten who has served 30 years, was denied parole for the 14th time this month.

In one historic case a cult member did receive some consideration. Patty Hearst, who was kidnapped (1974), raped and allegedly “brainwashed” by the SLA, was never the less sentenced to a prison term for crimes while inside the cult. President Jimmy Carter later commuted that sentence and Hearst was subsequently pardoned by Bill Clinton as he left office.